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The New Official Controls Qualification (Veterinary) – setting the standard

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01 October 2015, at 12:00am

Official Veterinarian (OV) is the term used to describe private veterinarians who perform work on behalf of a member state, often of a statutory nature.

Previous to 2014, training for OVs was provided by APHA (then the AHVLA) on an on-demand basis.  Attended, face to face courses were delivered at various locations throughout the UK.  Vets often had to wait for several months before they were able to attend the course of their choice and sometimes had to incur travel, accommodation and other costs associated with the time away from their practice.  Some of the training necessitated attending a course over two days at some distance from home.  There was no formal assessment attached to the training and no requirement for refresher training or to undertake CPD relevant to the subject area.

Following closer scrutiny from the European Union and the need to improve disease control in the UK, APHA saw the benefits of modernising the training system.  A system which encouraged best practice and good clinical governance would improve standards of work done by OVs and help ensure that their knowledge was current.

A tender process was started late in 2013, with the aim of appointing a single provider of training and assurance for the OV community.  This was the first Government tender that Improve International had submitted and the company worked closely with both internal and external advisors over most of January 2014, writing the tender document.  In March 2014, the hard work paid off and Improve International received the news that it had been awarded the contract from Defra.  

The contract involved setting-up a new, secure, registration process for all OVs, together with the development of 10 new Official Control Qualifications (Veterinary), which were to replace the old Panel system.  Improve International was provided with a list of the new OCQ(V)s together with the aims and objectives.  

Improve International had an existing, successful partnership with the European School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies (ESVPS) and Harper Adams University (HAU) to deliver accredited and validated modular training programmes to the UK veterinary profession.  The new OV training courses were accredited by ESVPS and validated by HAU, so that candidates are able to gain transferable university credits and even work towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Style Medicine.  The majority of the training is delivered online with a peer-invigilated multiple choice examination.  For the Tuberculosis Testing qualification, candidates also have to undertake an on-farm practical assessment and maintain a case-log of testing undertaken during a probationary period.  For some of the OCQ(V)s there is a pre-requisite to undertake other named OCQ(V) courses and examinations.  

Improve International had less than six-months to develop the new database and accompanying website – www.improve-ov.com, together with the first three high priority OCQ(V)s, Essential Skills (ES), Companion Animal (CA) and Tuberculosis Testing (TT). 

On August 20th 2014, the new registration database went ‘live’, together with the first three OCQ(V)s.  Existing OVs were granted ‘Grandfather’ rights and received the OCQ(V) qualifications that corresponded to their previous Panel appointments.  Following registration, there is now a requirement to undertake revalidation across all the OCQ(V)s, starting in 2017 for OCQ(V) – TT.  Attached to this revalidation is a requirement to keep up to date in the subject and to undertake CPD relevant to that specific area.

A deadline of 31st March 2015 was set for all existing OVs to register onto the new database. The OV designation is now linked to the individual rather than the practice and is therefore fully portable. 

To encourage registration and help OVs update, Improve International provided access to the Essential Skills training free of charge to existing OVs.  Improve International had targets to ensure that sufficient OVs transferred over to the new system as it was important to maintain an adequate number to deal with all the necessary statutory duties.  There was then a phased release of the further seven OCQ(V)s in order of priority over the following sixmonths.

The implementation of the new system of training and evaluation has overall been a great success. 

There have been some significant benefits of the new system over the old one.  The online training is more consistent with a standard approach to learning across all of the courses.  Each course has its own expert tutor and delegates can interact with each other through a forum and with the course tutor.  The training is available online, 24/7 and vets can study at whatever time is convenient to them. 

The learning is assessed via a validated examination process, ensuring that academic standards are maintained across all of the qualifications.  The training is cost-effective, counting towards a veterinarians’ mandatory annual CPD requirement.  There are savings as a result of no travel, accommodation and absence from practice costs.  The system is fully scalable, allowing large numbers of OVs to study at the same time and in cases of emergency, additional courses can be added quickly and efficiently.  The OCQ(V) qualification is fully portable with the individual OV and there is a choice which enables OVs to gain university credits, which can then be used towards a higher award.

  • For further details of the new OV training and assurance system, please visit www.improve-ov.com